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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Looking at Winnipeg from both sides now

After a rather tumultuous nomination and byelection, Larry Maguire (second from left in photo) has proven to be a very hard-working and caring Brandon-Souris MP for the Conservatives. 
So when I was asked by his aide to join the MP for a morning coffee last week, I agreed.
Time to bury the hatchet and all of that.
And add to the fact that he was going to have colourful federal cabinet minister and powerful Quebec MP Maxime Bernier (at left in photo) in tow just sweetened the deal. Bernier is minister of state for small business and tourism, and agriculture.
For that I also invited the Sun's chief political reporter, Jillian Austin (second from right in photo, beside myself), to meet us there.
It also gave me the chance to meet in person one Drew Ostash, with whom I had only encountered frequently in combat on Twitter during last fall's byelection in which he was flying the Tory colours in support of Maguire – and I, for gosh sakes, had cloaked myself in Liberal red.
Ostash is now Maguire's assistant and is responsible for maintaining, among other matters, the MP's public profile online.
While the chat at Komfort Kitchen was off the record, it was all very pleasant and professional. We did go on the record to discuss the surprise resignation the night previous of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's long-serving and generally revered finance minister, Jim Flaherty.
Austin reported on Bernier's comments in the next day's paper (

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After a rather tumultuous nomination and byelection, Larry Maguire (second from left in photo) has proven to be a very hard-working and caring Brandon-Souris MP for the Conservatives. So when I was asked by his aide to join the MP for a morning coffee last week, I agreed. Time to bury the hatchet and all of that. And add to the fact that he was going to have colourful federal cabinet minister and powerful Quebec MP Maxime Bernier (at left in photo) in tow just sweetened the deal. Bernier is minister of state for small business and tourism, and agriculture. For that I also invited the Sun's chief political reporter, Jillian Austin (second from right in photo, beside myself), to meet us there. It also gave me the chance to meet in person one Drew Ostash, with whom I had only encountered frequently in combat on Twitter during last fall's byelection in which he was flying the Tory colours in support of Maguire – and I, for gosh sakes, had cloaked myself in Liberal red. Ostash is now Maguire's assistant and is responsible for maintaining, among other matters, the MP's public profile online. While the chat at Komfort Kitchen was off the record, it was all very pleasant and professional. We did go on the record to discuss the surprise resignation the night previous of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's long-serving and generally revered finance minister, Jim Flaherty. Austin reported on Bernier's comments in the next day's paper ("He was one of the best finance ministers that we've ever had in Canada," Bernier said, to no surprise). I took the opportunity to ask Bernier – the once-fired and now on the road to career recovery minister – about what impact our MP from Brandon-Souris is making in the nation's capital. You know, time to really stomp down that I took the opportunity to ask Bernier — the once-fired and now on the road to career recovery minister — about what impact our MP from Brandon-Souris is making in the nation’s capital. You know, time to really stomp down that soil on top of the hatchet, as I didn’t expect him to say anything overly critical. But his enthusiastic answer also went further than I expected: “I was not able to be here during (Maguire’s) campaign, so I said to Larry when I’ll be able to come, let me know and now I’m here, and I can tell you that the work that he’s doing in Ottawa, we really appreciate him, he’s doing great work. “I think it’s important to speak about the priorities of your people, and Larry’s doing that in the caucus with his colleagues, so it’s a team work and I think you’re enjoying what you’re doing and we enjoy having him with us.” And to date, I’m enjoying having Maguire representing us. (Yes, the hatchet is buried, now I’m planting grass seed over it.) In a recent decision by the Conservative Party of Canada’s National Council, no incumbent Conservative MP who captured a seat after the 2011 federal election will have to go through an open nomination meeting. So I will have plenty of time to watch Maguire at work as MP. Watch him closely. And thanks for the coffee, Mr. Ostash.

"As a city of 700,000, Winnipeg is too small to be cosmopolitan but too large to be folksy. Big-city complaints about violent crime compete with small-town gripes about the absence of privacy and if you’re single, a terribly shallow gene pool."

— Excerpted from "Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg" by Bryan Scott and Bartley Kives, published by Great Plains Publications.

"I hate Winnipeg" is a line from The Weakerthans’ tune "One Great City."

It’s also a sentiment I share, having lived in the provincial capital for some 16 years before returning to my newfound hometown of Brandon. But journalist and author Bartley Kives has a slightly more nuanced response.

"I, like many Winnipeggers, have a complex relationship with their city," Kives said last week from his Winnipeg home.

"My favourite thing is the quirkiness and the weirdness and the very strong sense of regional identity.

"The worst thing is small-minded thinking. And the horrible problems with racism and poverty."

Ironically, Kives — a lifelong Winnipeg resident — was dealing that day with a new rite of passage for hundreds of River City residents, frozen water pipes.

I’ve known Kives since our days together at the Winnipeg Sun, during a time when we were both cutting our journalistic teeth.

Since then, I’ve ended up beyond the walls of Fortress Winnipeg, while Kives remained to forge a pretty decent life for himself. He has been writing about urban affairs, pop culture, travel and substantiality.

He moved across the Inkster Industrial Park to the Winnipeg Free Press, where he is now billed as a reporter for the Brandon Sun’s big sister publication.

His first book, "A Daytripper’s Guide To Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province," was published in 2006. It has since become a Canadian bestseller.

His latest, "Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg," is a co-production with photographer Bryan Scott, who has been documenting Winnipeg’s architecture and streetscapes since 2005. Scott’s also well known for his photo blog called Winnipeg Love Hate.

"Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg" made it to the bestsellers list at McNally Robinson Booksellers following its launch in November.

The book features a forward by John K. Samson, frontman of The Weakerthans.

He calls Kives "a uniquely Winnipeg voice: caring and caustic, insightful and wry. Of all the ‘My Winnipeg’s’ to date, Kives’ is perhaps the greatest. If nothing else, it is the most rigorously sane."

Indeed, Bart is nothing if not wry.

That last time Kives was here for a reading was for his 2006 Daytripper’s Guide To Manitoba.

In true Brandon fashion, the downtown bookstore he visited is now closed.

So today at 2 p.m., Kives will be at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba for a book reading and signing. He plans to read from the book and "tie it in to Brandon."

"Brandon needs to care about Winnipeg ... because Brandon is dependent somewhat economically on the centre of the political machinery for Manitoba. The problems facing Brandon’s downtown and Brandon’s older areas and Brandon’s sprawl and Brandon’s growth are the same problems Winnipeg faces.

"Brandon is a very different place than it was 20 years ago. And it’s a more interesting place."

To hear more, be at the AGSM today at 2 p.m.

•••

Another event today could have some life-saving results.

There are a few ways to kick an addiction, but one of the most successful is a 12-step program.

Yes, it’s based on a belief in a higher power. But once you’ve hit rock bottom, having something — anything — to grab onto is often very helpful.

One program which I know many people are very familiar with is Alcoholics Anonymous.

In fact, a close friend of mine in Winnipeg just noted on his Facebook page that he has been sober for 11 years now. And I remember the first day he checked out AA.

I’ve seen some other amazing success stories through that program, but I’ve also seen people try and fail.

It really depends how easy it is for them to give themselves over to the program and to a higher power.

It works if you work it.

But a new life can be had, if you have to work at it. Sure, it’s tough to admit to friends and family at the start the you are a "friend of Bill’s."

But isn’t it tougher to keep coming up with excuses for all those screw-ups and missed time and lost money?

One easy way to slip in to an AA environment is to drop into one of the group’s semi-public events.

Such as today’s Westman 66th Annual AA Round Up at the Ukrainian Reading Hall.

Opening remarks are at 12:45 p.m., with AA speaker Dietrich M. of Winnipeg at 1 p.m. and various speakers afterwards.

While it is geared to AA members who are "celebrating sobriety," if you say you are there to get some information, you certainly won’t be turned away.

Just remember, though it’s a hackneyed phrase, the first step is the hardest. And the first step is walking inside an AA club room or dropping into a Round Up.

Or even by making a phone call, so for more info, call Gord at 204-761-2685 or Pam at 204-724-4837.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 22, 2014

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"As a city of 700,000, Winnipeg is too small to be cosmopolitan but too large to be folksy. Big-city complaints about violent crime compete with small-town gripes about the absence of privacy and if you’re single, a terribly shallow gene pool."

— Excerpted from "Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg" by Bryan Scott and Bartley Kives, published by Great Plains Publications.

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"As a city of 700,000, Winnipeg is too small to be cosmopolitan but too large to be folksy. Big-city complaints about violent crime compete with small-town gripes about the absence of privacy and if you’re single, a terribly shallow gene pool."

— Excerpted from "Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg" by Bryan Scott and Bartley Kives, published by Great Plains Publications.

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